In my capacity as a Sage Business Expert, I was lucky enough to have been invited to the Sage EU debate at The Shard on 7 March 2016. The voice of the SME can sometimes be lost, but here it was loud and bold, with genuine concerns being brought to the table.
The debate itself was lively and at times, heated. Hosted by Sky News’ Ian King with panellists Anna Soubry MP, John Mills (of JML fame), Emma Jones (Founder of Enterprise Nation) and Craig Beaumont (Federation of Small Businesses).
The debate was attended by small business owners and business leaders, all with questions about what the real implications of an ‘in’ or ‘out’ vote will be and seeking to influence strategy and policy. The difficulty was always going to be that every business has different and diverse concerns about what Brexit may mean.
One of the most interesting points was raised by Nottinghamshire MP Anna Soubry, who asked those in attendance which EU Regulations were negatively impacting on their business. The room fell silent. This was a perfect example of how the perpetuation of false information and myths may prevent any serious conversation around the Referendum which is built on honesty and fact.
As an employment lawyer, I was especially interested to hear about the concerns of small businesses around EU citizens currently in the workforce would be affected. There appeared to be a wide-ranging need for access to a pool of workers which at present fulfilled by our participation in the EU. Any immediate cessation might have a significant impact on productivity and affordability, possibly leading to some labour intensive organisations to irreparably suffer.
By the end of the debate, 56% of attendees said they would vote to stay in the EU, 20% would vote to leave with 24% undecided. I ran the same poll on Twitter and the results were somewhat different (although I fear a re-tweet from UKIP may have swayed the results).
Watch the video of the event below, or follow tweets as they happened at #SageDebateEU